Baby acne usually develops about 2 to 4 weeks after birth and is characterized by tiny red or white bumps, usually on the baby’s face. A rash, on the other hand, can have a different appearance, depending on the cause.
Even adults can find it difficult to identify their skin issues. Everyone’s skin is different, and the way rashes and acne flare up can vary. Babies can’t tell you what they’re feeling, so you’ll have to go on looks alone.
Read on to learn about some of the most common skin issues that babies face and how you can treat them at home.
Baby acne usually develops about 2 to 4 weeks after birth. Tiny red or white bumps appear on the baby’s cheeks, nose, and forehead. The cause is unknown. It typically clears up on its own in about 3 to 4 months without leaving marks.
To treat baby acne, don’t use any of the over-the-counter acne products you’d use on yourself. These can damage your baby’s delicate skin.
Regular home care should be enough to treat baby acne:
- Wash your baby’s face daily with warm water. You may also try a gentle, unscented soap.
- Do not scrub hard or pinch irritated areas.
- Avoid lotions and oily face products.
If you’re concerned that your baby’s acne isn’t going away, their doctor can recommend or prescribe safe treatments.
Eczema is a skin condition that causes a dry, red, itchy, and sometimes painful rash. It’s more common in children and often develops in the first 6 months of life. The condition can continue as the child gets older, or they may grow out of it.
In babies up to 6 months old, eczema often appears on the cheeks or forehead. As the baby gets older, the rash may move to the elbows, knees, and skin creases.
Eczema flares up when the skin is dry or when the skin comes into contact with an allergen or irritant, such as:
- pet dander
- dust mites
- household cleaner
Drooling can also irritate eczema around the chin or mouth.
There’s no cure for eczema, but there are ways to manage your baby’s symptoms:
- Give your baby short, lukewarm baths (between 5 and 10 minutes) and use an unscented or gentle soap on the affected areas.
- Use a thick, unscented cream or ointment as a moisturizer twice a day.
- Use fragrance-free laundry detergent designed for sensitive skin.
Your baby’s pediatrician may be able to prescribe a steroid ointment to help reduce inflammation. Use this as directed by their doctor.
Milia are tiny white bumps on a newborn’s nose, chin, or cheeks that look similar to acne. They can also appear on the baby’s arms and legs. The bumps are caused by dead skin flakes becoming trapped near the skin’s surface. Like baby acne, milia go away without treatment.
However, you can use the same at-home care:
- Wash your baby’s face daily with plain water or if needed, an unscented or gentle soap.
- Do not scrub hard or pinch the irritated areas.
- Avoid lotions or oily face products.
Cradle cap looks like scaly, yellowish, crusty patches on the baby’s head. Depending on your baby’s skin tone, the patches may appear yellowish, brown, purple, or grey.
Cradle cap usually develops when a baby is 2 or 3 months old. There may also be redness surrounding the patches. This rash may also appear on the baby’s:
Cradle cap is not harmful to your baby. It’s not itchy like eczema. It’ll go away on its own in a few weeks or months without treatment.
Some things you can do at home to manage cradle cap are:
- Wash your baby’s hair and scalp with a gentle shampoo.
- Brush scales out with a soft-bristled hairbrush.
- Avoid washing hair too often, as it’ll dry out the scalp.
- Use baby oil to soften the scales so they’re easier to brush out.
Heat rash is caused when sweat gets trapped under the skin because of blocked pores. It’s usually caused by exposure to hot or humid weather. When a baby gets heat rash, they develop tiny, red, fluid-filled blisters. These can appear on the:
- elbow creases
The rash generally goes away within a few days without treatment. However, see your baby’s doctor if they develop a fever or if the rash:
- does not go away
- looks worse
- gets infected
To avoid overheating, dress your baby in loose-fitting cotton clothing during hot summer months. Take off extra layers if they get too hot in cooler weather.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a highly contagious viral infection. HFMD commonly causes blisters or sores to appear in or around the mouth or on the hands or feet. The rash may be seen in one or more of these locations.
The rash looks like red blisters or bumps. As the disease progresses, the sores may crust over. The spots may be harder to identify on darker skin tones.
While it can occur in anyone, it’s more commonly seen in children under 5 years old.
Additional symptoms may include:
- decreased appetite
- general malaise
- sore throat
Because HFMD is a viral infection, there is no treatment. People typically recover within 7 to 10 days.
Talk with your baby’s pediatrician to determine if you can offer baby acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help make your child more comfortable while they recover. Your pediatrician may also recommend ibuprofen (Motrin) in babies 6 months and older.
A pediatrician may also be able to recommend over-the-counter or prescription topical ointments to help relieve pain from the sores.
Limit acidic or spicy foods, such as citrus, as these can irritate the sores. Instead, offer cold foods, like popsicles, to help soothe sores in the mouth. It’s also important to keep your child isolated and out of care settings until the sores have healed. HFMD is extremely contagious.
These skin conditions are generally harmless and usually go away on their own with little or no treatment. You can help your baby avoid irritating the area by keeping their nails short and putting soft cotton gloves or socks on them at night.
If you’re concerned or feel that your child may require medical intervention, talk with their pediatrician.